1. THE CARMELITE ORDER
Carmelites came into existence towards the end of the 12th century from an indefinite, not well-known group of lay people, pilgrims and crusaders who, tired of war or desirous of waiting for the final coming of the Lord which, according the apocalyptic mentality of the time, was to occur in Jerusalem. They withdrew to the mountain of Carmel, where they embraced the hermit life style in vogue at the time, in opposition to and reform of the monastic movement. These first Carmelites devoted themselves to prayer and meditation on the Word of God.
Before being structuring into a group, which would take place with the Rule, these initial Carmelites were free, independent hermits, who looked for perfection through solitude, in which they attempted to fight against the devil – the combat with the devil, proper to desert spirituality – and against the enemies of a truly Christian person: the passions.
Later on, in a second stage, between 1206-1214 they asked Albert Avrogardo, Patriarch of Jerusalem who was living in St Jean d’Acre, to give them a Rule, a formula for life, by which to govern themselves. This Rule defines the Carmelite ideal as living “a life of allegiance to Jesus Christ, pure in heart and steadfast in conscience”.
From 1220, the lack of security in the Holy Land caused the Carmelites to begin their migration to Europe, establishing themselves in Cyprus, Sicily, France and England. In 1291, with the fall of St Jean d’Acre, the Carmelites were no longer present on Mount Carmel.
The mitigation of the Rule, adapting it to the new demands of religious life by Pope Innocent IV in 1247, was the point of departure in adapting the Carmelite Order from its hermit origins to a mendicant lifestyle, allowing Carmelites to found their monasteries in cities and devote themselves to preaching and confessing like the other mendicants. However, it was not until the 2nd Council of Lyons that they were officially considered as mendicants, together with the Dominicans, Franciscans and the Hermits of Saint Augustine.
Established in Europe, and looking for signs of identity by which people could recognize them, they developed devotion to the prophet Elijah, presenting him in his double aspect, as a prototype of the hermit dedicated entirely to contemplation and, on the other hand, as a model of mixed life bringing together action and contemplation.
At the same time, they developed devotion to Mary, which identified them as the Order of the Virgin from the time they were established in Europe, when the title by which the Order is official known became widespread: The Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel.
From late medieval times, the Carmelites who wished to live in allegiance to Jesus Christ were characterized by: contemplation, the foundation of Carmelite life and apostolate; prayer and together with it meditation, recollection and silence; asceticism, which implies sobriety of life; poverty, which implies dependence on others and a humble life; the apostolate, both in their churches and outside them.
The Discalced Carmel acknowledges Saint Teresa as its mother and foundress. It is the only Order which has a woman as its foundress and, distinct from the other Orders which have male and female branches, the nuns were established before the friars.
We are not going into the old discussion about the charism of the reformer and the charism of the founder. Mother Teresa’s desire was “to wish to preserve the continuity of Carmel”. What is new is not the past in itself, but progress, looking to the future, which leads us to think that Saint Teresa “wanted to give birth to a new style of religious life”, and she does so always in fidelity to the Church.
What we have just said is an affirmation that was to pass into the Constitutions where we define ourselves as “a renewed form of an ancient Order which entails both fidelity to the spirit and traditions of Carmel and a continual striving after renewal.” Tradition and desire for renewal are two attitudes bequeathed to the Discalced Carmel by its mother and foundress, Saint Teresa.
In 1599, Saint Teresa had a vision of hell which moved her to live in greater perfection. In the seven years from then until Fr Rubeo, the General of the Order, paid a visit in 1566, the Teresian ideal was developing. The notion of founding began to predominate over that of reforming. There remained in her a connection with the past, a search for the primitive rule, a desire to go to the sources of what it meant to be Carmelite, “our parents from whom we come”. What was new in her was the “personal desire to choose” something, which when lived interiorly by her, would be transmitted to the group or family begun by her.
In Saint Teresa there was a growth which ranged from her desire to be reformed in herself or reforming her Order, which motivated the foundation of St Joseph’s in Avila in 1562, to an ecclesial preoccupation: unity in the Church, the old Christianity and finally an apostolic preoccupation to discover their mission, the new areas opening for the Church in America, the New World.
The end result of this whole process was to be the development of the idea of foundation that occupies and fills the rest of her life, 1567-1582, and the birth of the discalced friars, which happened through St. John of the Cross and Fr Antonio of Jesus in Duruelo, 28 November 1568. This event carried on not only her style of life, but also her passion or concern for the Church and for the salvation of souls, her apostolic and missionary ideal.
2. MALABAR PROVINCE
Carmel in India
The Discalced Carmelites came to India in the beginning of the 17th century. They founded their first residence at Tatta in Sind, now in Pakistan, and the second, in Goa in 1620. The missionary activities of the Carmelites extended to the great Mughal Empire, Goa, Surat, Bijapur, Bombay, Karwar etc.
At the request of the Archdeacon Thomas Parambil in the name the St. Thomas Christians, Pope Alexander VII sent two groups of Discalced Carmelites to Malabar in 1656, one under Fr. Hyacinth of St. Vincent by sea and another under Fr. Joseph of St. Mary , later known as Msgr. Joseph Sebastiani by land, to settle the dispute and bring harmony between the St. Thomas Christians and their Jesuit Archbishop of Cranganore. Though intended as a temporary mission, events turned in such a way that the Carmelite mission in Kerala came to be permanent. They have made significant contributions to the Church in Kerala by their persistent activities especially in the pastoral care of the faithful, reunion movement, evangelization of non-christians, formation of native clergy, founding of the native religious congregations and socio-educational activities.
Indian Carmel: Malabar Province
The work of the Carmelite missionaries in India could not be considered complete without the establishment of the Carmelite Order in the country. The initial attempts to start a Novitiate for the natives in the second half of the 19th Century were unsuccessful. Msgr. Ladislaus Zaleski, the Papal Delegate and Carmelite Secretary, Fr. Aloysius Maria Benziger, OCD, later Bishop of Quilon (1905-1931), repeatedly requested the Superiors of the Order to take necessary steps to open the door of Carmel to the Indians. The Province of Flanders in Belgium took initiative to found a Novitiate House in India for training the natives. Accordingly on March 10, 1901, a group of three religious, Fr. Pauline, Fr. Philip and Br. Arnold from the Flanders Province, were sent to Quilon with the mission of founding a Novitiate. They reached Quilon on April 14, 1901 and Msgr. Ferdinand Ossi OCD, Bishop of Quilon, cordially welcomed them. They tried to settle at Alenchi, near Colachal, in a property called, “Alanchicaud”. At the request of Rev. Fr. Thomas Michael, the Provincial of Flanders Province, the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda Fide issued a rescript on March 8, 1901, granting him permission to start a regular Monastery with Novitiate at Alenchi or at another more suitable place in the same diocese of Quilon.
As Alenchi was not found very conducive for a regular Monastery with Novitiate, Fr. Pauline and his companions went in search of a more suitable site for the new foundation. The final choice of the site for the Novitiate fell on the place called Cotton Hill in Thiruvananthapuram, which was christened Carmel Hill. Soon a mud-walled house was put up with a small chapel attached to it. On March 19, 1902,Msgr. Ferdinand Ossi, Bishop of Quilon, blessed the little chapel and opened the house. The house was canonically erected into a monastery and was put under the patronage of Blessed Dionysius and Redemptus. Fr. Philip was appointed Superior of the newly erected Monastery and he was in charge of construction of the new Monastery and Church. The new building was blessed on May 13, 1906, by Msgr. A. M. Benziger, Bishop of Quilon. The monastery church was consecrated by the same Bishop on April 21, 1910 and was dedicated to the Holy Family. The Monastery of Carmel Hill was declared a Novitiate House on August 9, 1911 and Fr. Peter Thomas was appointed first novice master. A few young men were admitted as Postulants, but none of them persevered and the novitiate was closed temporarily.
The novitiate was reopened on June 1, 1928 when seven clerical and one non-clerical postulants were admitted to the canonical novitiate. Vocations were promoted irrespective of rite and region of origin of the candidates. The first novices made their religious profession on June 3, 1929. Fr. Constantine of Flanders Province (Belgium) was the Superior of the house and Fr. Lucas of Burgos Province (Spain) became the Master of Novices. They continued in their respective offices until the administration of the Semi-Province was fully handed over to the Indian Carmelites.
On December 3, 1929 the Mission residence of the Flanders Province at Thuckalay, canonically erected in November 1913, was handed over to the Indian Foundation. Keeping the existing Residence intact, a monastery was constructed parallel to the Residence which was declared study house for the theology students in December 1933. Rev. Fr. Xavier of Flanders Province was elected as Prior. Carmel Hill monastery served as Novitiate as well as Study House of Philosophy Students. The Provincial of Flanders Province appointed Rev. Fr. Constantine as Delegate Provincial for the two Indian Monasteries of Carmel Hill and Thuckalay. Rev. Frs. Xavier and Lucas were his Councillors.
In view of establishing an Indian Province of the Order, the monasteries at Carmel Hill and Thuckalay were separated from the jurisdiction of the Flanders Province and brought directly under the General Definitory in Rome on April 24, 1936. By the initiative of Rev. Fr. Gulielmus, the then Superior General, the Semi-Province of Malabar was canonically erected under the patronage of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on February 10, 1937. However, for vaious reasons the due election chapter was not held immediately but was delayed for ten years. Meanwhile a foundation was opened at Margao, Goa, in 1938, the first house of the semi province outside Malabar.
The Navarra Province of Spain handed over two of its monasteries: St. Teresa’s Monastery at Ernakulam and St. Joseph’s Monastery at Varapuzha-to the Malabar Semi-Province. The Malabar Semi-Province took possession of these monasteries with their assets and liabilities on 27 October, 1940 Rev. Fr. EliseusMalamackal and Rev. Fr. Rumold were appointed Superiors of St. Teresa’s Monastery at Ernakulam and St. Joseph’s Monastery, Varapuzha respectively.
The Superiors of the Order took necessary steps to make the nascent Indian Semi-Province autonomous. On the basis of the recommendation of Fr. Boniface, the then Provincial of Flanders, appointed as Visitator General, the General Definitory decided to execute the decree of erection of the Semi-Province of Malabar handing over its regions to the Indian Carmelites on January 21, 1947. Fr. EliseusMalamackal was appointed Vicar Provincial, On that occasion the House at Goa was separated from the Semi-Province and was put directly under the Province of Flanders.
The First Provincial Chapter of the new Malabar Semi-Province was held from 16th to 20th April 1948 at Carmel Hill Monastery, Thiruvananthapuram.Rev. Fr. Eliseus was elected Vicar Provincial,Frs.Martin and Joseph were his Councillors.Fr. Angel Mary (Thuckalay), Fr. Archangel (Thiruvananthapuram), Fr. John of the Cross (Ernakulam) and Fr. Thomas (Varapuzha) were elected local superiors and Fr. Andrew, Novice Master. It may be noted that the Discalced Carmelites were the first among the religious Orders working in India to establish a separate Province for the Indians and to indigenize that Province.
Rev. Frs. Constantine and Xavier of Flanders Province and Rev. Fr. Lucas of Burgos Province are hailed as architects of Malabar Province.Msgr. Aloysius Maria Benziger, OCD as a zealous carmelite and as the local Ordinary was solidly behind all efforts for this first Indian Province of the Carmelite Order. We also gratefully remember all the Carmelite Missionaries of different provinces who were instrumental in building up Malabar Province.
In 1947, Novitiate was shifted to Thuckalay and Carmel Hill became Study House of philosophy and theology of the Semi-Province. In 1971 theology course was shifted to the newly started Carmelaram Theology College, Bangalore. Carmel Hill Monastery now serves as the Philosophy College.
Like any other institution, Malabar Semi-Province also had its period of trial mainly due to the presence of the members of different rites and regions. In 1950 Fr. Engelbert, Vicar Provincial of the Trivandrum Mission, was appointed by the General Definitory as Commissary. After the pastoral visitation made in 1956, Rev.Fr. Anastasius of the Holy Rosary, the then Superior General, ordered to close down all the formation houses. The Mother-Province of Flanders generously accepted all the religious under formation for completion of their courses. Fr. Aurelian, (from the province of Navarra), Rector of the Seminary at Alwaye, was appointed as Delegate General for the Province. He was succeeded by Fr. Michael Angel (from the Province of Navarra) in 1963, who continued in his office till he was elected Superior General in 1967.
The Divine Providence arranged the course of events that Fr. Anastasius, the same Superior General, ordered to re-open the formation houses in 1961. This marked the beginning of the second spring of the Province and vocations began to flow into the Province ever more increasingly. New Monasteries were founded in and outside Kerala. On July 8, 1967, the Semi-Province of Malabar was raised to the status of a Province by the General Chapter.
Expansion of the Province
In April 1981 during the pastoral visitation,Rev. Fr. Philip Sainz de Baranda, the then Superior General, effected certain internal arrangements based on the rite and region of the Province for the growth and development of Carmel in India. Thus Varapuzha unit of the Order was formed with the monastery of Varapuzha as headquarters for those members of the Latin origin from Kerala who opted for it. This unit grew steadily and now has become a Province. It is known today as South Kerala Province.
Tamilnadu General Delegation was also formed in the same manner with four houses from Malabar Province and two, from Manjummel Province with the Tamil – speaking members from both provinces who voluntarily opted for the Tamilnadu General Delegation. This unit also grew fast and was raised to the status of a Province. It is today known as Tamilnadu Province. The Malabar Province handed over all its houses in Tamilnadu to the new Province.In the same year the Goa foundation, grew under the protection of the Province of Munjummel, was created as a Province with the name province of Karnataka Goa.
Complying with the directives given by the Second Vatican Council in its Decree for the Oriental Churches (n.6) at the request of the Province presented by the General Definitory, the Holy See transferred Malabar Province from Latin jurisdiction to the Syro-Malabar jurisdiction, while leaving some of its houses under Latin jurisdiction. The Decree is dated November 12, 1996. Today Malabar Province is the only Oriental Rite Province in the Order of Discalced Carmelite Friars.
The Malabar Carmelite Mission of Punjab, started in 1979 in the diocese of Jalandhar, North India, was the realization of the long cherished desire of the Province and of the founding Fathers who had the great vision of serving the mighty Himalayas with the message of Christ. It has opened new fields for the work of evangelization and offers great scope for the expansion of the Order in North India. It is a flourishing mission, thanks to the strenuous efforts and selfless dedication of our missionaries. Fr. Camillo Maccisse, the Superior General declared the Provincial Delegation of the Malabar Carmelite Mission, a Regional Vicariate under the patronage of St. Therese on 22nd of February 1994.
And on March 23, 2004, St. Therese’s Regional Vicariate was raised to the status of a Commissariat General and it became a Province in 2010 with the name “Province of Delhi”. It was a landmark in the history and expansion of the Province of Malabar.
Ranchi Provincial Delegation
In 1989 the Province opened a House (Carmel Nivas) at Ranchi, in the present state of Jharkhand as the Aspirants’ house for vocations from the region in view of the expansion of the Order to the north – eastern part of India and for our proper Apostolate there. A station house was opened in Ormanchi and a school is run for the education of local people there. During the Provincial Chapter of 2002 the Ranchi mission was raised to the status of Provincial Delegation.The House of Gumla was added in 2007 and that of Hazaribagh, in 2010.
St. Teresa’s Regional Vicariate of North Malabar
It was a historical milestone in the expansion of the Malabar Province when St. Teresa’s Regional Vicariate was established in the Provincial Chapter of 2008. It was officially declared by Very Rev. Fr. General at Carmel Hill Monastery, Trivandrum on 29th October and had its first Congress on 25th November, 2008. The Regional Vicariate comprises the territories of the Eparchies of Thalasserry, Manathavady, Thamaracherry and Palakkad, but always, in the state of Kerala. The House in Belthangady is also entrusted to the Regional Vicariate.
The Province is running its own formation houses from initiation course to Theological studies. Including those of the Ranchi Provincial Delegation, there are three initiation centres, two preparatory colleges, one novitiate, one philosophy college and one theology college in the Province. In our philosophy college the religious and priestly studies are combined with university graduate studies. Our theology college at Bangalore is affiliated to Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram, Pontifical Athenaeum of Philosophy, Theology and Canon Law and our students are awarded the degree of B.Th at the completion of their studies.
The Province carries on the good works initiated by the zealous Carmelite missionaries. Faithful to the charism of the Order, the members of the Province spend their time and resources to promote spiritual life among clergy, religious and laity. The Province has established retreat houses and spirituality centers attached to its monasteries at Bangalore, Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam, Sengulam, Peravoor and Muvattupuzha. Among these centers the Institute of Spirituality (Adhyatma Vidya Peetham) at Carmelaram, Bangalore, started in 1976 and affiliated to ‘Teresianum’, Rome, offers a residential one year Diploma Course on Christian spirituality; Lisieux Centre, Muvattupuzha, offers a residential six months’ intensive Diploma Course on Consecrated Life and three months’ course for the immediate Preparation for Final Profession.
Our Province is doing significant services in the field of Press Apostolate through its institutions such as St.Joseph’s Press, Carmel International Publishing House, CIPH, Carmel Book Stalls and Carmel Communications. The “Carmel” monthly (Malayalam) started under the editorship of our Fathers in 1947 is one of the ancient periodicals of a spiritual character in Malayalam. CIPH is publishing the English Edition of L’Osservatore Romano for India. From July 3rd 2008, it is publishing the Malayalam Edition of L’Osservatore Romano, which is the first ever non-Latin Script Edition of the paper of the Pope.
The Province organizes activities and social apostolate under the auspices of the Rehabilitation Aid Society (RAS), which was established as the social organ of the Province and registered under Societies’ Registration Act in 1976.
Kodathy Mission Unit
We were also in charge of the mission of Kodathy in the Archdiocese of Bangalore. This mission unit is spread over several villages (22 villages) around Carmelaram Theology College, with a parish church at Kodathy and a sub-station at Dommasandra. In 2014 we have handed over these parishes to the Archdiocese of Bangalore.
Syro-Malabar Parish of Carmelaram
Our concerted efforts and prayers are fulfilled when His Grace Most Rev. Dr. Bernard Moras, Archbishop of Bangalore, established a Syro-Malabar Semi-Parish at Carmelaram College under the patronage of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on 1stof May 2009.We have given two acres of the land of Carmelarm Theology College for the use of the Parish.
Our Presence in the Syro Malankara Church
Ever since the Malabar Province was declared an Oriental Province, our service to the Syro-Malankara Church was enhanced through various means. A residence was opened at Varavoor, Ranni in the Metropolitan Eparchy of Thiruvalla on 29th November 2004, to it was entrusted the nearby parish.Besides the parish of Varavoor, there are also other three parishes entrusted to us: That of Thekkumkal of Maramon and of Pullad. The residence became a canonically erected house on 17th December 2009. In 2011 the regional Vicariate of North Malabr took up two parishes, Moothedam and Palankara in the Eparchy of Bathery. The historical bond between the Syro-Malankara Church and the Discalced Carmelites begun at the time of the Re-union movement through the person of Archbishop Aloysius M. Benziger, has acquired an unprecedented growth ever since our Province became an Oriental Province.
We are also contributing our share to the missionary undertaking of our Order outside the frontiers of India. Our Priests have served in the Missions of Tanzania, Zaire, Central Africa and Nigeria . At present three of our priests are in Rome at the service of the Congregation for Oriental Churches taking charge of the Pontifical Institute of St. John Damascene: two of our priests are in Teresianum, one Brother in the Generalate. One priest is in Kuwait, four are in Australia, one is at the service of the semi-province of Austria. There are four priests doing pastoral service in the United States; nine in Germany and three in Italy, one of our priests is working in the Diocese of Copenhagen in Denmark.